There are a number of things that will happen after you file your Answer. You may have to file some additional papers, and the judge will schedule a hearing that both of you must attend. This page will explain the different things that might happen next in your case.
Your Spouse Might File a Reply to Your Counterclaim
If you filed an Answer with a Counterclaim, your spouse might file a “Reply to Counterclaim.” This is a document that lists what your spouse agrees and disagrees with from your counterclaim, much like your answer said what you agreed and disagreed with from the complaint. You do not need to respond to the Reply to Counterclaim.
Wait for a Court Date
The judge will set a court date in about 90 days. The hearing is called a “Case Management Conference.” You will receive a notice in the mail from the court with the hearing date included. Visit the Case Management Conference page for more information about this hearing.
You must have your Financial Disclosure Form filed within 30 days of when you filed your Answer. If you did not already file it, be sure to file it before the Case Management Conference. Attach your last 3 paystubs to this form.
File Motions for Temporary Orders
You might have some issues you want the judge to sort out while the case is going on. This could include who should live in the house, where the children should live, when each parent should have time with the children, whether either spouse should pay temporary alimony or child support, etc.
A judge can issue temporary orders to guide the parties while the case is moving forward. Either spouse can file a motion for temporary orders at any time before the final separation is granted. Please visit Motions for Temporary Orders for more information.
Set a Time to Meet with the Other Party
Some of the items below are technical and involve a lot of specific requirements. You can ask the judge to waive any or all of these requirements. Judges are more likely to waive these requirements if the parties have little or no assets, and/or if there are no minor children.
If you must comply with the requirements below and are not sure what to do, you are highly encouraged to retain an attorney. You can learn more about finding an attorney under Find Legal Help.
Both parties are expected to meet with each other (and their attorneys if applicable) within 45 days after an Answer is filed. The Plaintiff is to set the time and place for the meeting. This meeting is called an "Early Case Conference."
This meeting is primarily to exchange all of the documents described in the next section below. It is also to talk about any issues you can agree to and identify the issues you may need to take to trial.
The parties should prepare a written report from the meeting, called an "Early Case Conference Report." The document should include a number of things, primarily: what documents were exchanged, what documents are still needed, what witnesses were identified, a description of the issues involved in the case, and a proposed trial date. Both parties can sign one joint report, or each party can prepare a separate report to file with the court.
You and the other party are required to voluntarily give each other certain documents and information. This helps both of you collect all of the information you will need to prepare your case. Ideally, this is done at the Early Case Conference explained above.
Once you file your Financial Disclosure Forms, you both should start sending each other copies of any of the following applicable items:
- Evidence that supports what you included in your Financial Disclosure Form. This includes financial statements, documents, or receipts to support the figures you used.
- Evidence of property, income, and earnings. This can include a lot of things. Usually, it means exchanging bank and investment statements, credit card statements, copies of property deeds, copies of balances owed on any property, loan applications, promissory notes, deposits held in escrow, copies of documents showing any money due to either party, statements for retirement/pension/annuity accounts, copies of all insurance policies, tax returns for the parties and businesses, W-2s/1099s/K-1s for the past two years, and a list of items valued at over $200.
- Names of any expert witnesses who may be used at trial.
- Names of nonexpert witnesses who may be used at trial, including their addresses, phone numbers, and a brief description of what the person is expected to testify to.